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Digital nomadism, the new norm for remote work

Graphic by Leah Kemper

By: Leah Kemper, marketing and communications fellow

The Covid-19 pandemic has proven that working from home or anywhere can be done, might even make people more efficient and productive and created the biggest remote work experiment in human history.  

Many businesses, of all sizes, even have plans to completely get rid of their offices. By 2025, it is expected that 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely, an 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels, according to Upwork’s second 2020 Future Workforce Pulse Report. The survey reveals that although the sudden shift to remote working has been an adjustment, hiring managers are seeing the positive benefits from a distributed work force; they are even planning to continue leveraging remote talent.  

Remote working brings in an increase of digital nomads, individuals who are location-independent and use technology to do their job. Digital nomads work remotely rather than being physically present in a company’s office. They may be seen working in cafes, beaches, or in hotel rooms because they are not tied down to one location.   

McKenzy Lilliock, humans resources fellow, has worked remotely on countless occasions, her favorite spot being Marco Island, Florida. Her sister lives on Marco Island, which allows her to travel there whenever she wants. 

“I have spent spring, summer, and winter breaks in Marco Island for weeks at a time,” said Lilliock. “When I am in that location, instead of having a short vacation, I transition my life there for an extended period.”  

For Dustin Brown, pre-law, and biology fellow, on the other hand, had a different experience. While he was used to working remotely due to the circumstances COVID-19 had forced upon many of the millions of working-class individuals and did not necessarily mind the experience, it was not as enjoyable for him as it was for Lilliock. 

“I would say these circumstances are not ideal and I would love to be able to have face-to-face interactions with clients and co-workers, but given the conditions of the pandemic, I believe this is the best option,” said Brown. 

For Lilliock, working remotely from Marco Island has all-around been a positive experience for her. She explained that looking forward to sunshine and palm trees outside of her window and work near the pool motivated her more throughout the work day.  

“An experience like this allows me to fall out of the typical pattern I was in at home, avoid burnout, and try something new while still being as productive as I would be in my hometown. “Finding a different location, whether it is poolside or maybe a snowy cabin in the woods, a change of scenery can be useful for the mind and soul to reset.” said Lilliock. 

With that in mind, Brown mentioned explains that being a “digital nomad” is not always favorable for employees and employers and that it can also be counterproductive. He suggested that job prospects should be mindful of zoom fatigue and less opportunity to supervise activities. 

“It becomes increasingly difficult for employers to track the amount of work completed, encourage positive work ethic, and provide the correct work environment to stimulate productivity,” said Brown. 

Eventually, though, true digital nomads tend to settle down in the new area they travel to. If they are strategic about the location, they can even weigh the currency and cost of living differences to find an area that they not only enjoy, but where their salary goes much further.  

According to Globetrender, Barbados and Estonia were quick to react to this cultural shift, allowing long-stay visas for people who want to work remotely from there. People are rethinking the way they work and the way they take vacations, as the benefits of combining work with leisure over a longer period will become embraced in new way. Short trips may not seem worth the risk anymore, particularly when Covid-19 testing, and quarantines are involved. 

Twitter and 17 other companies have announced employees can work remotely indefinitely, although at least 60% of US Companies still have not shared their remote working polices with employees.  

“I think digital nomadism should be encouraged. Personal growth is essential in this process because while these individuals are traveling, they are learning about themselves and finding out what makes them happy in the process,” said Lilliock. 

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